A Tomato Sandwich – The Perfect Comfort Food

tomato sandwichIt is my ultimate comfort food.

There have been a few times in my life when I was so stressed that my diet consisted entirely of tomato sandwiches. When you can rely on one food to sustain you for weeks at a time, you know you’ve found your ultimate comfort food. I love them and I never get tired of them.

I just received the last tomatoes of the year from my Step-Father. They’re small because the weather began to turn, but they’re the last, and they’re mine.

I was so busy today that I forgot about them right up until the time everyone was in bed. I had just finished working on a project, sent an email to my boss and realized that the only sound I heard was the fan my son keeps in his room to help him sleep. Peace…

Then, I remembered the Last Tomatoes!

I tip toed in my worn gray-white socks to the kitchen and began to prepare the tiny feast for my soul. Opening bread bags can awaken sleeping children and the operation had to be done silently.

Once the bread was prepared I selected a tomato from the bag. It was firm and fragrant. I cut into it. The scent of summer came rushing up to me and memories of the weeks of anguish which were highlighted only by the quieting peace of tomato sandwiches flickered across my mind. Juice ran between my fingers as I placed the tomato on the bread.

Curling up into my favorite chair, I ate my sandwich and listened to my son’s fan. I rarely get moments of peace like this, and when they comes I revel in the solitude and quiet.

I put away my plate and knife then realized that there was also a tiny bit of cinnamon applesauce left in the refrigerator. And I ate that too. Because right now, I don’t need to eat tomato sandwiches to survive. Right now, it is just the last of them, and tomato sandwiches are my favorite.

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Your writing prompt for today is to describe, in detail, something that seems mundane to the rest of the world, but brings you simple happiness.

Fragment Friday – The Flappers

Happy Friday Firefans,

I wrote this piece  a couple Octobers ago, in response to a writing prompt Lori gave me. I pulled it out of the dusty archives of my computer and read it again, (forced myself not to edit or think about how much better I could write it now) and had a snicker at my original idea for a surprise ending.- which later I decided I didn’t like and changed. The ending isn’t here,  because I thought I would let you tell me how you think it should end! I’m still open for suggestions.

In any case I hope it gets you in a spooky mood just in time for a lovely October weekend.

Till next time,

~C

The Pink Flappers

Rain pelted down in sheets and rolling thunder boomed as I peered out the small, diamond-shaped sections of clear glass framed in the wooden front door. There was no hope of getting Mamie to come and pick me up in her Coup Deville with weather like this going on out there. She was skittish of driving even in sunshine, in daylight wearing her flat soled shoes and her Daddy’s blessing.  I sighed sorrowfully. Ella Fitzgerald’s sweet voice rang through the kitchen, across the foyer and down into my soul “I’m growing so tired of living alone, I lie awake all night and cry. Nobody loves me, that’s why. “

“Now what’ve I done with my pink flappers?” I yelled into the sitting room, to no-one in particular. My flappers, my favorite high-heeled pink shoes with wispy, sparklingPink flappers fur around the toes, I knew would boost my spirits and pull me out of my stormy day gloom. My mother had coined their nickname when she’d said I looked like a cheap flapper when I pulled them out of the bag I’d brought home from the consignment store. In defiance, I wore them every day after that.  What they lacked in class they made up for in confidence. I liked them a little more every time I slid the pink tufts of fur over my feet.  Besides the heels made my legs look longer, curvier, and somehow, they miraculously made me an amazing dancer. Boys were even starting to fight for me as their partner on Saturday nights at the Metro, the public dance hall on the edge of town. My mother thought my pink fluffy flappers made me look cheap- but when I wore them I felt like a modern-day Cinderella.

I pushed aside a dusty curtain hanging from the arch of the living room window. Not there. I bent down and stretched my neck sideways to peek underneath the oval glass inside the coffee table. Not there. Hadn’t I kicked them off here, last night, in the foyer? It had been dark, it was after 2 a.m. when I crept in like a thief in the night, hoping no-one was up waiting with listening ears.  I knew I’d catch hell if Dorie heard me come in and ratted me out. I could have taken them up to my room in a sleepy, party-dazed stupor and forgotten. So I crept up one flight of creaky wooden stairs to have a look. As I rounded the second story corner to my room, I noticed my sister’s door slightly open and I’ll be damned if those pink shoes weren’t lying right there at the end of her bed.

“Dorie!” I screamed. A stoic silence came from her room. So I blasted open the door hoping she’d be there on her bed and I’d startle her, reading her silly teen magazines.  But her room was empty, no trace of her except for her pale pink raincoat lying in a sad, dripping heap on the upholstered chair in the corner. The sight of it, for some reason made me glum, and my anger dwindled. I swiped my shoes from the floor and went out quietly, closing the door behind me. I stood in the hallway outside the second-story bedrooms balancing on one foot, then the other as I pulled on my beloved shoes. I continued down the hall to the small bathroom I shared with my sister, my flappers clicking cheerfully on the wood floor. My mood lightened a little. I pulled open the bottom vanity drawer and searched for my new tube of bright red lipstick I’d hidden last week. I dug for what seemed like forever through the drawer, but all I found were discarded plastic eye-shadow containers and lids from lost tubes of lip liner.

“Darn it all,” I said reaching one more time into the furthest reaches of the drawer. What could be more annoying than losing two of my favorite things in less than 10 minutes? But I was determined to force myself into a better mood so I found a tube of rose-colored lipstick instead and leaned in close to the mirror, slowly tracing the outline of my lips. I smacked my lips in satisfaction. Pink lipstick couldn’t hurt. Suddenly, as I stood there studying myself in the mirror, a noiseless shadow passed in the hall. I peeked out, hoping to catch Dorie sneaking into her room and give her a piece of my mind about stealing my shoes.  But she wasn’t there. I stretched my neck to see her bedroom doorway, still half open.  As I straightened my back and turned to face the mirror, suddenly a figure appeared behind me: A little creep a head shorter than me with her back to the mirror, her long, black hair hanging in damp clumps against her back. I jumped a little and shrieked, still looking at the creepy, faceless reflection of stringy black hair.

“Good hell, Dorie! That’s just plain not funny!” My sister said nothing, but slowly turned toward the mirror. Black streams of mascara dripped down her pale face, streaking her delicate cheekbones. Her wet clothes clung to her shivering body. She stared stoically into the mirror. I shuddered involuntarily at her wraithlike image.

“What’s wrong love?” I said, gathering my wits, and turned to face her. And for a moment I thought I had lost my mind, or was in the midst of a fervid dream, or had one too many margaritas at the dance hall last night…because she was gone.

A shiver of fear passed through my bones. What on earth? I glanced around the bathroom one more time and out into the hall to make sure no one had been trying to play a trick on me. All I heard were a few notes of jazz drifting up from the kitchen radio. How had she disappeared from my sight so quickly? Or had I imagined it? Maybe this moody October storm was getting to me a little more than I thought.

I looked back into the mirror with some trepidation, and saw that the color had drained from my face. My ashen skin and the bewildered look on my face reminded me of the uncanny appearance of my sister, and it forced me to look away. Suddenly I felt very alone. I decided to go down to the kitchen, where I knew Mama was pressing dough for pot pies or brewing a giant pot of beef stew. The kitchen windows would be all steamed up and dripping with condensation. The warmth and homey aroma of dinner cooking would seep into my cold soul and then I’d feel better. I flipped off the bathroom light and clicked downstairs without looking over my shoulder.

In the kitchen, all the lights were on; the white one hanging over the kitchen table, the small Stove-and-windowone over the stove, even the lamp in the corner where Dad had spent most evenings reading the newspaper before he died. A pot of cold unboiled, water sat on the stove. A single silver spoon rested on the counter nearby.  But there was nothing in the oven, no ingredients had been strewn out over the counter, and my Mother was nowhere to be seen. The only sign of life was the radio, playing a spirited trumpet player’s version of “It had to be you.”

I rubbed at the goosebumps on my arms and decided to make myself a cup of tea. I pulled my stash of Lavender chamomile tea bags from the cupboard over the counter and pulled Mama’s teapot from the cupboard beside the stove. I peered through rows of mismatched drinking glasses to find the delicate, fluted teacup painted with violets that Dorie and I always fought over. I sort of wished she was here now, arguing that she had as much right to my Grandmother’s tea set as I did; that I always assumed I had more rights because I was the older sister. As I thought about her, and the strange state I had seen her in earlier, I glanced again around the kitchen and saw something that took my breath away. All of the cupboard doors were open. Had they been that way when I walked in, and if so why hadn’t I noticed?

Again, I looked around for Dorie- who had been known in her younger days for playing practical jokes. She wasn’t there, the kitchen was completely empty. In fact, as I looked around again, something other than the room’s sheer emptiness that struck me. It was cold and…lifeless.  The kitchen seemed completely devoid of human touch- as if no human soul had lingered there for days, weeks even.

I turned on the stove and sunk down into Daddy’s old chair with a sigh. I knew there had to be an explanation for the unusual events of the afternoon, but for some reason my mind just couldn’t conjure up what it might be. In fact, when I tried to remember whether I had even seen Mama that morning, I couldn’t remember. Had I woke up as usual and took the bus to my typing class at the community college? Or was it Saturday? Had my sister, Mama and I eaten our usual wheat-scones and orange-spice tea around the table at breakfast, or maybe I had overslept and crept down in my bathrobe and slippers. I had no recollection of the morning. The last thing I remembered was looking for my shoes in the foyer.’

What was wrong with me? Was I losing my mind? I sat there in my late Daddy’s leather chair for what seemed like an eternity, trying to untangle the murky events in my subconscious.

Mistaken Identity

Hello Fire Fans,

This is a piece which I started so long ago that I barely remember writing it. This is really in a Fragment Friday vein, but I’m part owner of this blog so I’ll go ahead and do what I want.

I like the characters in this piece and I think I’m going to continue on with it one day.

Your writing prompt for today is this. Go through your old folders, find something you wrote, either one that you like and want to continue, or one that you despise that needs adjustment.  Add something, a description, dialogue, a whole scene…anything. Your old pieces deserve attention too.

Mistaken Identitybookstore

Sharon heard a woman’s voice calling “Ann, Ann!” She continued to look through the pages of a novel, killing time until she could pick up her daughter from dance class. “Ann! Ann!” the woman continued to call.

I wonder why Ann doesn’t answer, she thought to herself.

Sharon felt a tap on her shoulder and turned to find at a tiny woman wearing a tattered brown coat over a baggy purple T-shirt and faded jeans.

“Ann, I’ve been calling you and calling you. You always get so wrapped up in your books. It’s been so long since I’ve seen you. How have you been?”

Shocked and embarrassed, Sharon opened her mouth to tell her that she must be mistaken, but before she could utter a word, the short, ragged looking woman continued.

“I’ve waited for your phone call. I thought I had done something to make you angry. You know, ever since Hank died it seems I spend a lot of time waiting for that old phone to ring.”

heart coffeeThe woman nervously pulled on her coat, conscious that it was out of style, worn and dirty. She laughed anxiously and said, “What are you doing right now? There’s a coffee shop right here in the store, would you like a cup?”

Shaking her head, Sharon intended, again, to tell her that she was not Ann. She looked into the woman’s gray eyes and was stunned by absolute loneliness. In that moment, she became lost in a stranger’s sorrow.

“I think you bought the coffee last time.” Sharon said, “Why don’t you let me buy this cup?”

 

Fragment Friday: The Song That Set Her Free

As you may recall, Natalie and I participated in a community project to help support the arts in our local schools.

Natalie has shared her play with you, and I thought that I would share part of mine for Fragment Friday. There are a lot of things that I want to change in this 10 minute play. I see a lot of holes, character flaws and it may be a little over dramatic.

But it’s mine.

I took my writing and put it on display for strangers to see. I do that weekly with this blog. However, it is one thing to imagine readers sitting at their computer screen, it is quite another to have your words, actions, and ideas put on display in front of a living, breathing audience.

I sat in anonymity watching the play unfold before the spectators. It was one of the most surreal experiences of my life. The actors were outstanding. The director got to the heart of the matter in the play. And I? I felt as if there were a flashing light above my head, and yet, at the same time, completely invisible as I sat there with a group of people who did not know, that I was the playwright. I saw open, raw reaction. Looking back, I’m still amazed that I did it.

The play was taken from a piece of flash fiction which I wrote for the blog. I’ve since removed the piece because I’d like to work on it without having it…out. (Writers sometimes have strange relationships with their work.)

As always, comments, ideas, and feedback are welcome.

Now, on with the show….

The Song That Set Her Free

By Lori King

Leah: A traditional housewife and mother

Marty: A husband, an up and coming Lawyer

Jessica: Leah and Marty’s oldest daughter (age 11)

Patrick: Their second child (age 6)

Mary: Their third child (age 3)

Anne: Leah’s best friend

The Song That Set Her Free

(Leah, dressed in a full skirt and heels, is standing stage right, at a stove in a modest kitchen, flipping pancakes in the early morning. There is a table center stage fully set for breakfast. Five chairs surround the table. There is a laundry hamper, ironing board and some shelves stage right, down stage from the stove. A notebook and pen sit on the shelf among some other books. There is a sink upstage from the table and a box of laundry detergent sits next to it. Stage left and down stage sits a wooden rocking chair and a bar stool.)

MARTY:

(Enters stage right in a bathrobe and slippers. A towel is draped over his arm. His hair is messy. He yawns.)

Good morning. Are the kids still in bed?

LEAH:

I was just about to call them.

MARTY:

I have to get to work early today. We have a client first thing. Maybe I should just eat…

LEAH:

Marty, we don’t get very much family time because you’re so busy…

MARTY:

Okay, okay….but I’ve got to leave early so you’d better get them up.

(Marty exits stage left and the sound of a shower is heard. He begins to sing.)

LEAH:

Jessica? Jessica? It’s time to get up. Can you get your brother and sister dressed?

JESSICA:

(Enters stage right fully dressed.)

Yeah, mom.

I was already awake. I’ve been reading. Have you ever read Jane Eyre?

LEAH:

Yes! I loved it when I was your age!

JESSICA:

I love it! But Mr. Rochester seems mean.

LEAH:

Just keep reading. You’ll end up loving him. Now, please hurry and get the other kids up. Can you have them wash their face and hands? Daddy will be out of the shower in a minute and we’re going to sit down to breakfast.

JESSICA:

Sure Mom.

(Jessica exits stage right)

LEAH:

(Leah quickly finishes preparing for breakfast and begins to set out all of the food on the table.)

MARTY:

(Enters stage left, clean cut and shaved, dressed in a business suit.)

What’s for breakfast?

LEAH:

Pancakes, eggs, bacon and some fresh berries.

MARTY:

The pancakes are going to be cold before we eat. You should have gotten the kids up earlier.

LEAH:

(Sighs)

 I know. They’ll be here in a minute.

(She pours milk into glasses as they wait for the children to join them.)

(The children enter stage right noisily arguing about where to sit. A glass of milk gets spilled as they sit.)

MARTY:

Leah…

(He gestures to the mess on the table in disgust.)

LEAH:

(Hurries to wipe up the mess and calmly gets the children seated and the children begin to eat.)

MARTY:

Can I get some coffee?

(He shakes a coffee cup in Leah’s direction.)

LEAH:

(Hurries to fill the coffee cup, and speaks to the children periodically. Coaxing them to eat, to stay clean, to mind their manners as she cuts pancakes into bite size pieces for her youngest.)

Do you know what time you’ll be home from work?

MARTY:

Leah. It just depends on how long it takes. If I have a client come in late, I’ll be home late.

LEAH:

Will you call if you’re going to be late?

MARTY:

I will if I remember.

LEAH:

Does Kathleen stay with you when you stay late?

MARTY:

Of course she does, she’s my assistant.

LEAH:

I don’t like the way she talks to you.

MARTY:

This again, Leah? It’s nothing. It’s just the way she IS. She’s like that with everyone.

LEAH:

Well, ‘everyone’ isn’t my husband. You are.

MARTY:

What do you want me to do? She’s a valuable asset to the firm. I’m not going to fire her. You worry too much. We’re a busy firm; we need an assistant. That’s all there is to it. Speaking of, I’d better get out the door. I need to get to work.

(He wipes his mouth on a napkin, kisses the kids and begins to walk stage right. Before he exits he turns back.)

Tomorrow I’m going bowling with Hank. Can you make sure my bowling shirt is clean?

LEAH:

I’ll wash it right after breakfast.

MARTY:

Don’t forget. Last week I smelled like old socks.

(He grins at her and exits stage right.)

LEAH: (sighs) Okay kiddos. Let’s get breakfast cleaned up so that we can get to the park, okay?

(The children begin to assemble their dishes and carry them to the kitchen sink. Leah takes a shirt from the hamper, goes to the sink and begins to scrub laundry detergent into a stain.)

 THE SCENE ENDS

(Leah is sitting at the table with her best friend Anne. Two cups of coffee sit on the table. Several children play quietly stage left.)

LEAH:

I don’t know Anne. It’s just a feeling I get. He’ll never support me doing anything outside the house.

ANNE:

Leah, you put him through school, you gave him three kids, you fix his meals, you clean his clothes. He will be alright if you take some time to yourself. He can take care of the kids for one or two nights a week.

LEAH:

But he’s never done it before and he has such a short temper with the younger ones. He’ll put a lot of pressure on Jessica if I’m gone.

ANNE:

Give him a chance. Just tell him what you want.

LEAH:

I don’t think he’ll care.

ANNE:

Why don’t you tell me what you want? Maybe it will help you clarify it with Marty.

LEAH:

(takes a deep breath)

When I was in high school, Mr. Hammond, my English teacher, told me I should write. He loved my stories and encouraged me to submit some of my work to magazines. I published a few short stories and won a few competitions. It felt wonderful! When I was writing, I felt like I was fulfilling a purpose, like I was communicating from my soul. I want to do it again. I want to start writing!

ANNE:

Leah, you deserve to do this! When you tell Marty, he’s going to ask you how you’re going to do it because you’re both so busy.

LEAH:

If he can watch the kids for two nights a week, I’d be able to get a lot of writing done. I could get dinner on the table and then go to the library for a couple hours. It wouldn’t take long before I had a few stories to send in, or even a book. I just need two nights a week.

ANNE:

That doesn’t sound like a lot to ask.

LEAH:

He’d have to clean up dinner.

ANNE:

It wouldn’t hurt him. He’s a grown man. He can clean up after himself and his children a couple of nights a week.

LEAH:

But what about Jessica?

ANNE:

She’ll be okay. Just make sure Marty knows that HE needs to be the one who takes care of things. He can’t just sit and read his paper. He needs to help her. If you set up a schedule, the rest of the family can pitch in to help.

LEAH:

I don’t know. It’s time for my children to begin to pursue their dreams. The time to pursue mine has already passed. Jessica loves to sing. I want her to keep doing that if her heart tells her she should. The time for me to make the decision to write a novel was made when I said ‘I do’ to Marty. He will never support me in this. Some decisions we make are permanent.

ANNE:

(thinks for a moment and then replies)

Leah, how are you going to teach your children to go after their dreams if you don’t go after yours?

LEAH:

(Looking over at the children as they play.)

I can’t, can I.

ANNE:

Just tell him. He’ll hear you out.

LEAH:

I hope so.

END SCENE

Beltane

bonfire

This has been a long time in coming. We’ve promised, several times, to let you know what it was that we have learned this summer. We’ve all been so busy applying what we’ve learned that we haven’t actually had time to write about it on the blog. (Although, there has been PLENTY of writing about it.)

Our lessons came in a few, somewhat insane, highly symbolic, events.

By the end of winter, all of us had become aware of significant doubt, pain, and regrets that we each felt within our hearts. It was a difficult winter for each of us in different ways. Our desolation and heartache were keeping us from becoming who we needed to be. We had lost ourselves somewhere in the past. All of us could see it in the others, but somehow missed it in ourselves.

Natalie came to us with the notion of Beltane (Pronounced: BEY-al-TIN-ah). It’s a Celtic holiday which celebrates the coming of summer and new growth. We didn’t need the growth of crops, however, we needed to expand our souls. We needed to let the things from the past fall away, and to encourage our spirits to move on to the next part of who we were to become.

We formed a plan. In the weeks leading up to Beltane, we each thought about what we wanted most in life. We were to gather pictures of the things we wanted most and put them in a vision board, the desires of our inner selves made manifest in photos.

Our vision boards became a topic of discussion every time we were together. It wasn’t unusual to hear, “Ooo! I want to put that on mine!” Nor, was it unusual for us to stalk people, houses, and things, snap pictures, and find a place for it on our vision board. The beauty of this exercise was that we were limited only by our imaginations. (With a group of writers, imagination is abundant.)

Traditionally, there would be a bonfire at a Beltane. We decided that we would write down those things which we needed to let go, past injuries, regrets, unhealthy desires and we would throw the list into the fire. We wanted to begin letting go of the negativity in our lives by watching it go up in smoke – literally.

It was all wonderfully planned.

However, something was missing.

We needed to do something symbolic to remind ourselves to let our dreams grow, to pay attention to the whisperings of our souls. My Aunt, who is in tune with our little group even though she lives in Wales, suggested that we plant our vision board in a pot and let it nourish a plant. Our dreams would feed the plant just as they feed us. As we tended to the life of the plant, we would be reminded to tend to our dreams, keeping them alive as well.

The day of our celebration came.

We lit a small fire and watched the flames ripple upward. We sat is silence. Each of us took a moment to reflect and release the sadness and suffering that had been plaguing us for decades. When we were ready, we tossed our list of troubles into the fire, watching the light catch hold of the the list. The paper blazed brightly, then turned to black ash, the fire easily dissolving our problems in its power.

Something similar happened in our souls as we watched them burn. It was as if a fire was rekindled in our own hearts. One that could envelope and destroy agony, defeat, and sorrow and empower us to LIVE.

It’s strange how one action, when done in the right moment, with the right people, can instil you with ancient knowledge, knowledge that has always been there waiting for you to see it.

We sat in silence for a few moments, lost in the freedom of purging such darkness from within ourselves.

One of us asked whether the others wanted to share our dreams. A discussion, which has never quite ended, began that night. We discussed our desires, and the things we felt that we were supposed to accomplish in this life. There were tears, encouragement and beauty as we began to realize all that we wanted lay at our fingertips. We came to understand that we were born to succeed.

The light began to die down and it came time to plant young, fresh, lavender with our vision boards. The soil seemed to clean our hearts as we gently tucked our vision in among the roots.

We departed in the enchantment that only comes in a May evening.

In the months since, we have continued to believe in ourselves. Something happened that night, an openness that was not there before. We know where we are going, we have faith in each other and in ourselves.

This was the beginning of the Summer of Magic. We have had to renew our commitment to our dreams. Occasionally had to readjust our lives to get back in line with what we want. But that night, among fire, soil and the beauty that is May, we gave ourselves over to what we could become.

There is power in letting go.

There is magic.

There is freedom.

There is love.

There is completeness.

MagicColor4

Top Ten Tuesday: Candles

candle-light

I have a young friend who is struggling. She is severely depressed and experiencing extreme loneliness.

I have been where she is.

I know the pain.

There are two great lies about depression. One is told by Depression herself; that it will never end.

As bad as that is, the other lie is just as damaging, although at first glance it doesn’t seem like it. We are lead to believe that depression is just temporary and if you change your circumstances it will get better.

The first lie causes hopelessness. When you’re wading through it, it doesn’t seem as though it will ever end. Life loses all of its reason, flavor and beauty. It seems like an endless dark cave with no hope of ever seeing the light again.

The second lie, that it is temporary, leaves room for hope. The danger is that it is often a false hope. True, real, deep depression is not temporary. It can last for years enduring the voices of those around you telling you, “Come on! It will get better!” is annoying and can cause you to sink deeper into depression. Because it can last; it can last for a very long time. People will try to change. They will change their living arrangements, marriages, jobs and anything else, but the depression stays.

The truth lies somewhere in the middle. Depression can last, but if you hang on, even in the darkness, there are bright moments. There are even bright days, months, and years when depression sleeps and you awaken to light and joy.

I believe that a person can live with depression, and I believe that it you can make it a good life. Part of the secret, for me, has been the choice to notice and reflect on beauty, goodness and hope. I cling to those things. I take them out of my memory and examine them again and again. They become a candle in the darkness, lighting the way for just a moment.

And so, my dear young friend, I give you the top ten beautiful things I’ve seen this week. I hope that maybe, just maybe, my words can penetrate the darkness around you and give you a glimpse of the other side.

10. It was a dank, dark, stormy day. The steel clouds hung in the sky threatening to rain. I looked at the clock on my dash and pushed the pedal down to the floor. I was late…again. The freeway seemed to stretch on forever. I came to the top of a hill. Suddenly, a narrow slit opened in the clouds and golden light poured into the valley making homes, streets and treetops gleam like part of a heavenly city set into earthly life.

9. My hair stuck to the back of my neck and sweat trickled down between my shoulder blades. It had been over a year since I had been hiking. My legs burned, and my lungs greedily sucked air into my body. I rounded a corner and peeked down a narrow path. Water! I scraped my way down to a fresh spring shooting out the side of a stony hill. I put my hands into the crystal water and washed the sweat from my face. Drinking in the nectar of life, I let it cool me to my very soul.

8. A woman, hands shaking, stood in the wings watching the play unfold. Her part was fast approaching. “I can’t do this,” her voice wavered. “What have I gotten myself into?”

Her cue echoed across the stage.

She took a deep breath and stepped into the spotlight discovering, for the first time, that she was capable of more than she knew.

7. An infant’s sleepy eyes drift to the face of his mother as she cuddles close to him on a large, cool bed. He gives her a peaceful grin and drifts into slumber, knowing that he will be safe, warm and loved as he sleeps.

6. Clouds sweep up the face of a rocky mountain on a cool autumn morning. Gray light settles in the valley, slightly shadowing the brilliant colors of fall. I smile, sip my lavender tea and sink back into my favorite novel.

5. The sun sets on an industrial building. Individuals for the next shift park their cars and are slowly swallowed up into the vast structure. Their faces are blank, and their steps slow. The stream of people finally ends and all is quiet once more.

Suddenly, an SUV comes screaming into the parking lot and stops just feet from the entrance. A woman leaps from the passenger side. All the windows come down and small faces appear with puckered lips. She walks around the vehicle reaching to kiss each child. She smiles, shouts, “I love you!” and runs through the door.

4. A dog sprawls across the floor. A small, feverish little girl leans into her softness as the child watches her favorite show on television, feeling the warmth of her fur between her fingers. They both drift into and out of sleep; each needing nothing but the company of the other.

3. A group of woman sit around a table at the coffee shop. They laugh until their faces hurt and tears stream down their cheeks. Each of them came to the meeting feeling lonely and weak. Each of them leave knowing that they are connected to each other in ways they don’t understand. Each renewed with strength.

2. A young girl stacks blocks between herself and her younger brother. She waits, holding her breath. He swings his arm and blocks go flying and bounce across the floor. Peals of laughter ring through the room as she gathers the blocks again.

1. Whispered prayers and silent hopes are answered every day. Miracles are present in the beating of our hearts, the friendships that we forge, the peace that we find in spite of our emotional challenges, the coming of autumn, warmth of spring, kindness at Christmas, good chocolate, warm beds, red roses, pumpkin pie, and emails from friends.

This is what Depression tries to hide from us, the beauty of everyday life.

We are children of a loving and giving God.

The Universe is ours to see it as we will.

This is what experience has taught me: There is a way through. There is hope for brighter days if we choose to hold to those moments which bring us joy. Yes, they can be short and distant, but holding on to them gives us hope and reminds us that there is light in the world.

These become our candles, tiny points of light, to get us through the deepest blackness of depression.

Your writing prompt for today is to write in 100 words or less about one of your candles. Write about something that you’ve found beautiful this week.

Moxie Monday: Boundaries

boundaries

I remember my first introduction to the word boundaries. I was in Kindergarten and there were boundaries to the playground, an invisible line I wasn’t supposed to cross. It was meant to keep us safe, to guide us toward where we needed to be. I quickly learned to follow the rules.

When my husband was in the Navy, boundaries were only crossed with a card which I was required to carry. There were checkpoints, rules and regulations. I got used to these types of boundaries as well.

But there is one type of boundaries which I never got used to, those which I put in place myself. Personal boundaries. For reasons which we don’t discuss I never did create personal boundaries. I allowed myself to be walked on by just about everyone I knew. I ignored myself and I allowed myself to be ignored. My feelings, ideas, opinions, thoughts, and needs were put second to everyone and everything else. I was not safe; there were no checkpoints.

As I’ve become acquainted with other creative types, I have noticed that many people discount, what should be, their personal boundaries. They become people pleasers; they change their life to fit around the lives of those around them. That doesn’t work for ANYONE. It makes us depressed. It stifles the growth of others. We BECOME a lie. We do NOT fulfill our purpose. We are stunted.

My advice is this week’s writing exercise.

Make a list of your personal boundaries. Decide now what type of life you want to live.

Let me give you a start:

1. I deserve to be spoken to with respect.

2. I deserve to have my voice heard.

3. My feelings and opinions are valid.

4. I can trust myself to form my own opinions, and find truth.

5. I am worth self-care.

These are just a few, but it’s a start.

How about you? Have you set your boundaries? Where will you start?

Superstitious, crazy, or just plain magical?

The OfficeCr

Happy F-13 Firefans,

Last night I noticed a fellow writer’s Facebook Post:

“I’m on 13,000 words and I have to go to bed soon. What do I do? What do I DO?!”

And then in the comments he explained:

“You don’t seem to understand the severity of this situation. I am on 13,000 words, in less than 3 hours it will officially be Friday the 13th, and I have to be in bed soon if I wanna be up in time for work. I. Am. Going. To. DIE.”

Part of me wanted to reassure him that superstition has only as much power as a person allows it to have. The other part wanted to say:  “What are you insane? You KNOW you have to keep writing, right? And stop talking about it here, you’re going to jinx yourself!”

Superstitions. Jinxes. Talismans. Lucky charms.  Odd traditions and rituals we think can ward off bad luck. Society’s creative-minded are synonymous with believing in some kind of other-worldly magic that can influence the course of our daily lives. Why is that? What is it about creating art that makes us…well frankly, paranoid?

For me it isn’t the notions widely believed in by society. Nope. Too cliché.  I tend to shy away from any idea that the general population accepts as truth. Things like black cats being cursed, four-leaf clovers bringing luck to the finder, that the Twilight series is actually good. You know, that kind of thing.

Nah, I tend to put serendipitous stock in my own self-established little rituals and idiosyncrasies. Let me illustrate.

For many years, I thought that if I didn’t wear matching bra and underwear, I’d encounter all kinds of mishaps during the day. (I think it’s important to note that I had to give this notion up after having kids, and start wearing whatever the hell was clean and within my sleep-deprived grasp.) But since I was a teenager, and to this day I will still wear specific pieces of jewelry when I’m going to be with certain people. I have a random assortment of items I keep in my desk drawer—(A smoothed river stone. A seashell.  A picture of my Grandpa. An antique key. A green candle.)  I keep them near my working space because there is a small part of me that believes they hold some kind of magic that gives me the power to think, and write creatively.

I once discussed some of my weird little superstitions with a therapist. Yep, I said the “T” word. Truly, if you know me, you can’t be all that surprised. (But ahhhh, therapy. I highly recommend it, especially if you are a writer of any kind. For all the useless BS you come out with, you’ll double that in writing material.)

Anyway, she smiled and told me that this, assigning meaning to random objects and rituals is very common. She said it was something called “Magical Thinking.”

I sat there and thought about it for a few seconds, and then said: “Yeah, I always knew I was magical.”

The fear in her eyes, combined with an overall look of resigned defeat was a moment I won’t forget. It was superb. True story. But that’s beside the point.

The point is, writers, artists, actors, musicians…most of us are just a tad superstitious, whether we choose to acknowledge it as that or not. Some pretty famous creative minds have had what my therapist so condescendingly dubbed “Magical Thinking.” Truman Capote felt his writing wasn’t true to form unless he was lying down puffing a cigarette and drinking a sherry. When T.S. Eliot was writing, he insisted visitors address him as “The Captain” and smeared his face with green tinted powder.

I could go on and on with evidence of crazy writers and artists in history.  But the point is not WHY most of us believe in all kinds of weird rituals and superstitions. The point is that they seem to work.

For whatever reasons, believing in these things allows us to capture and transform our creative thoughts into things that others can enjoy. And whether it’s because there are truly supernatural forces at work, or whether it’s simply us manifesting our own success with the power of believing, doesn’t really matter. It just is.

So I was thinking about all of this, earlier today while I did some housecleaning. I was on my way upstairs with a handful of hangers and tripped, fell up the steps, poked myself in the eye with one of the hangers, and landed with my chin dangerously close to my preschooler’s pee-soaked pull-up. (Yes. I have a preschooler that wears pull-ups at night. Don’t judge, believe me, it’s the least of my worries.) While lying there pondering my fate, my mind reeled off into that very artist-like weirdness.

This happened. It’s because it’s Friday the 13th. And tonight I’m going to a poetry awards banquet, during which it is a slight possibility that I will win an award and get called onstage and….Wait, or worse! There is a slight possibility that I won’t win anything and get called onstage at all, because it’s Friday the Freakin 13th!. What a horrible, horrible day to be attending the first writing contest awards ceremony I’ve ever taken part in! Aaaaah!

Then I pulled my chin out of the pee, tossed the hanger aside and thought. Nah. I don’t believe in Friday the 13th, anyway. I make my own fate, and I’m going to enjoy having entered my first writing contest whether or not I win.

And then I went and changed into green underwear.

What is Magic?

Happy Midweek Firefans.

I’m going to be honest. Sometimes I have no idea what I’m going to post, and so I think I just won’t. It’s that moment of succumbing that inspiration strikes, and I end up writing something that I really love.

That’s what happened today. I woke up thinking about the terrible tragedy that happened 12 years ago to the day, combined with the little miracles that happen in the bounty of our time on Earth. And this came out. Whether it’s good or not is really subjective, and beside the point. These words felt meaningful, passing through the shadows of my mind and out of my feeble fingertips.

So it speaks something to me…

I decided to treat it like poetry and leave it largely unedited, so forgive me for errors. Also- if you’re musically inclined- I was listening to this song as I wrote.

Hope you enjoy and find some Magic in the rest of your day.

~C

Magic is art, it is color. It is words.

It is purpose.

Magic is finding secrets in song lyrics, hope in half-written poems.

It’s the luminescent warmth of light in a newborn baby’s eyes.  It is the pure and shrill song of a young girl singing of snowflakes in July.

It is the voice of an angel that whispers me awake, both summoned and disguised by the quiet rustling of leaves outside my window.

Magic is being kissed into consciousness. It is falling asleep in the solace of the arms of one who loves without condition.  It is sitting next to another and knowing Love without words.

Magic is a child learning to read.

Magic is the quiet knowledge gained in watching the eruption of sparks in the soul of a bonfire.

It lives inside the heart of the wanderlust dreamer who believes that men should fly, and then makes it so.

It is humans that dive into the sea and breathe inside of water, and fish that use their fins to push themselves onto the barrier of sand and sea.

It is the witnessing of Earth’s evolution in the bud of a new oak leaf. It is proof of God’s great Love in the burning colors of Autumn descending across a mountain slope.

It is knowing and not knowing.

It is the mysterious solace in winter’s first snow.

Magic is ideas.

Magic is exquisite hope.

Magic is love.

 ****

Without Magic, life is bleak. It is tragic. It is gray.

 It is hindered by thick, suffocating clouds of indifference.

 It is decay.

It is shards of broken mirror in a dirty gutter. It is freeways that snake through polluted cities, haunted by greed.

Life without Magic is paraplegic forests with thirsty skin and veins that run dry. It is mountainside wastelands disfigured from careless fire.

It is scars left by silence, wounds made from words.

It is a child too young to have experienced life and yet certain there is no reason to live it.

It is blood-stained and bruised and afraid.

It is a woman covering her cheeks in layers of counterfeit color to hide her own private war. It is her child sitting alone on the cold, concrete porch steps. It is despair.

Life without Magic is a young man in his prime, crushed by the belief that he has no right to claim Love.

It is prejudice. It is children weeping at the feet of their ancestors because the world has denied their existence.

It is Nazi Germany. It is refugees killed in crossfire.

It is ignorance. It is fury.

It is men driven by hate who steer planes into towers of innocent people. It is the putrid black smoke that arises from those towers, streaming pennants of malice and destruction.

Without magic we are stagnant. We are sterile.

We are lost.

***

Magic is the human condition;

We must pursue it and claim it.

We must live and breathe and love inside of it.

Without Magic, we will cease to exist.

Fragment Friday – Cats and Dogs

Happy Friday Firefans!

In the spirit of a late summer weekend…

Today I decided to share something that I wrote simply because…are you ready? It makes me happy. Yes. Writers can be happy too.

I don’t think this story is epic. I don’t think have any delusions that the writing here is stellar. The plot is light and probably predictable. And I haven’t spent hours obsessing over it or become an existential train wreck because of it or its origins.

I started it as part of a prompt for a short story contest. I ended up missing the deadline, but was so in love with the premise that I decided I’d keep it on file and go back to it someday.  I love the characters and the possible scenarios of what might happen between them. I love the setting and the story and the animals and the slightly askew yet amiable small-town ideals.

This story is something that I often forget writing is supposed to be: FUN. Yes! Did you know, our group has lots and lots and lots of fun? We do! Even though of late, we haven’t shown that side of ourselves here.

And yes, you called it. You know me well. There is, of course, music that goes with this scene. See? More fun!  Unfortunately this artist is so up-and-coming you can’t find the song on YouTube. So you’ll need Spotify to play it. (Emerging writers supporting emerging artists. That’s how we roll here at WTF.)

Anyway, I hope you enjoy it. As always, I welcome your thoughts.

Thanks for reading.

~C

(here’s the song)

* * *

Cats and Dogs ~ Chapter One, Opening Scene

Lizzie sat on the window ledge, pulled back the lace curtain and peered outside. Squinting, she surveyed the contents of the black convertible in the driveway next door: A camera, a map, and several brown boxes filled with books. Nothing out of the ordinary. Nothing that satisfied any suspicions of either normalcy or scandal.

Gracie, with her little orange tail pointed straight up, jumped onto the window ledge and boldly nosed her way through the curtain. Lizzie took the kitten into her lap and pulled back the lace. She didn’t want to be accused of spying. And anyway she wasn’t spying, really. That would be perfectly ridiculous.lace curtains

Mary, the librarian was the first in town to spread the news: Nathan McDaniel, the famous and recently divorced romance novelist was moving to the seaside town of Trinity Cove. Lizzie couldn’t have cared less about it, until she heard Mary casually mention that he was buying the house next door.

She’d had to sell literally hundreds of her murals to save for the down payment on her 1906 Victorian cottage, and in the three years she’d lived there, she’d been working her fingers to the bone to restore and maintain its charm.  She was near certain a celebrity author was not going to appreciate the historic character of the neighborhood. Nor was she sure that she wanted an egotistical, overpaid, overindulged, celebrity romance writer living next door.

She had read a few of Nate McDaniel’s books, or she’d tried anyway, and she couldn’t help finding his writing bland and overly cliché. She’d rolled her eyes at the way his books followed such a formulaic plot, young Caucasians in love and separated or unrequited in mind-numbingly stereotypical ways. She was sure he hadn’t a clue the way people really felt, or talked, or acted when they were smitten over someone. And maybe she was no expert, but she was pretty sure that real people didn’t act like the cardboard cutouts he seemed to use as inspiration for his characters.

moving truckShe straightened her spine and watched cautiously as a slender man with tousled, walnut-colored hair appeared behind the truck with a handcart, wearing a dress shirt rolled to the elbows and loose-fitting jeans. He pulled a few medium-sized boxes down and stacked them on the cart, then put his hands behind his head, stretched and gazed with a warm smile around neighborhood. Lizzie ducked behind the curtain.

That’s Nathan McDaniel?” She said out loud without meaning to. Gracie mewed in response, butting her head against Lizzie’s arm. She stroked the kitten’s soft fur absentmindedly and peeked out again. The man was effortlessly lifting giant boxes down and stacking them in neat rows. Strange. She had pictured him older, heavier, messier, more… bookish: Sweater cardigan, squishy abdomen, double chin, withered cigar hanging over a five-o-clock shadow. Not that she’d spent any time thinking about it, but wasn’t that what middle-aged romance novelists usually looked like? She pulled back the lace again and leaned forward slightly to get a better view.

After a long bout of silent staring, a horrible thud, followed by a clawing, scratching noise brought Lizzie back into focus and painfully aware that she’d been resting her forehead against the glass. Damn. She was caught. The man in the driveway jerked his head in the direction of Lizzie’s front window.

Gracie dug her claws into Lizzie’s thighs and before she had a chance to cry out in pain, a giant, jet-black, slobbery face appeared at the window. The horrible creature barked so loud, Lizzie felt the window vibrate. Gracie clawed her way across Lizzie’s right arm and dashed under the sofa.

“What on earth was that awful thing?” Lizzie whimpered, rubbing the tiny scratches on her thigh.The doorbell chimed.

She froze, thinking briefly of her ripped shorts, paint-splattered shirt, and the dirty-blonde strands of hair falling out of the messy bun on top of her head.  She closed her eyes and hoped that the quiet meant whomever was at the door had gone. But a friendly knock- with a little more-than-the-usual enthusiasm broke into the silence.

Lizzie took a deep breath and made her way to the door, opening it with slow trepidation.